Founder of Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Handmaids of Jesus in the Eucharist.
George Matulaitis, the son of poor farmers, was born in Lugine, Lithuania, in 1871, and baptized at the monastery church of the Marian Order in Mariampole. He learned his Catholic faith in catechism class at the monastery, from the Marian priest, George Cešnas. He was orphaned at an early age—his father dying in 1874, and his mother in 1881. In his youth, Matulaitis developed a weakness in his right arm and leg, that prevented him from working with his brother on the farm, and kept him away from classes at the school. His illness was years later diagnosed as tuberculosis of the bone, which he suffered with for the rest of his life.
Outside the watchful eye of the Russian civil authorities, Fribourg became a place for free discussion of the sad state of the Lithuanian homeland. With other students from Lithuania, George talked about a Catholic cultural revival. Becoming convinced that religious Orders were best suited to the work of such a revival, George traveled home, to Mariampole, to discuss with one of the last remaining members of the suppressed Marian Order the possibility of secretly resurrecting the group. Trips to Rome and Mariampole set the plan, approved by the Marian Superior Vincent Senkus, in motion.
George completed his doctorate in theology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He then returned to teach Latin and canon law in the seminary in Kielce. He then moved on, to head of the newly established sociology department, and served as vice rector of the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy, teaching dogmatic theology. All the while the renewal of the Marians was taking place in secret. Pope Pius X approved a new interim Constitution as the group's rule. George then secretly took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a member of the Marian Congregation in 1909. With the death of the last Marian, Fr. Senkus, a hastily organized meeting on 14 July 1911, elected George the Superior General of the Congregation of Marians, which, at that point, consisted of him and 2 other priests—though there were seminarians preparing to join the group. Though he was a respected teacher, priest, spiritual director and confessor, George's secret work with the Marians put the renewal—and the Seminary—in danger. George decided it was time to resign his position at the academy to work for the Marian Order.
With some small success reviving the Marians, George began reclaiming the monastery properties of the old Order. He also established Marian religious houses and houses for training new members (novitiates) at Bielany, Poland, Marijampolė, Lithuania, Fribourg, Switzerland, and Chicago, Illinois. Just as it seemed the work of the Marian renewal was seeming to take root, George heard the rumors that he was being considered for the position of bishop. When his vigorous attempts to avoid the inevitable failed, he accepted the call of Pope Benedict XV to serve as the Bishop of Vilnius, then part of the Polish territories. George had just founded the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lithuania, 15 October 1918. ( He also founded another Congregation, the Handmaids of Jesus in the Eucharist, in 1924, in Belarus). He was installed as Bishop of Vilnius on 8 December 1918.
For 7 tumultuous years, he steered the diocese of Vilnius through one crisis after another. Besides the ethnic conflicts among the Poles, Lithuanians and White Russians, there was the constantly shifting battle lines of a world war that left Vilnius first under the control of Germans, then Bolsheviks, then Poles. Finally, wearied by his efforts, George requested to be relieved of his pastoral duties in 1925. But no sooner was his request granted, than he was appointed Archbishop by Pope Pius XI, and sent back to Lithuania to negotiate a concordat between the new nation of Lithuania and the Vatican, and establish the nation's dioceses.
In 1926, as Archbishop, George Matulaitis traveled to the United States for a second time, and participated in a Eucharistic Congress in Chicago. He returned to Lithuania and completed the negotiations with the Lithuanian government. In Kaunas, a city under curfew, George fell ill. Because of the curfew, he remained in his apartment, and died of a ruptured appendix 27 January 1927.
A convent of Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kaunas, Lithuania (established by Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis)On 28 June 1987, Pope John Paul II beatified him as the Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis-Matulewicz.